Updated Afrika Korps

Afrika Korps from Avalon Hill was one of the first commercially successful wargames, published way back in 1964.  I started playing it when I was 7 years old with a chess tutor and had a lot of fun with it back in the day.  It has held up better than many games from that era of game design, but it can still use an update if people want to play it today.  Here is my variant of this old classic.

The main design change is a New Europa style CRT (see that system’s page here), with appropriate supporting changes like steps, and phasing ZOC and unit differentiation rules more like SCS or that revised Europe.  All the original components are used, though two sided counters to represent step losses would be an improvement.  In the meantime, I just use OCS step loss counters to represent step reduced units.  There are some lesser changes for things like terrain effects, field fortifications, road movement and trace supply.  The intention is a game that feels and plays more like a “modern” SCS style system, but stays simple and playable.  It is fair to say the result is somewhat more complex, hopefully with gains in realism.

New combat system

First the combat system changes.  We use the New Europa CRT which is this –


The armor odds DRMs work like revised Europa.  That means if the defender has any armor defense factors and the attacker doesn’t have at least as many – armor odds below 1-1 – the defender has armor advantage and there is a -1 DRM on the combat resolution.  If the attacker has 3 to 1 or better odds, counting only the armor AF and DF on both sides, and as long as the attacker also has armor factors at least equal to the total DF in the combat (all kinds and terrain effects included), then the attacker has armor advantage and there is a +1 DRM on the combat resolution.  Armor advantage can be earned by either side in any terrain in AK.

The bombardment +1 DRM is available if the attacker spends a second SU supporting this single combat in this phase.  All attacks require attack supply, meaning expenditure of 1 SU to support all combats within 5 hexes of that SU.  Bombardment requires spending a second SU to support just 1 of those already supplied combats.  Only the attacker may use bombardment and only for 1 combat in the entire combat phase.  This represents large scale prep fires by artillery and air ahead of that attack.

All losses on that CRT are given in terms of the weaker side’s SP strength, normally the defender but the attacker for the lowest 1-4, 1-3, and 1-2 odds columns.  These create a “loss requirement” to fulfill, which the side suffering those losses must assign to his engaged units as he sees fit, always at least equaling the required loss number.  Losses are met by reducing 2 step units or eliminating whole units in any combination desired.  Defenders must remove their loss number worth of defense factors, attackers their loss number worth of attack factors.

All units with 2 SPs or less, including 2-3-4 Italian infantry units, are 1 step units.  Stronger units have 2 steps, and their combat factor is halved round up when they are reduced.  Thus a 7-7-10 German panzer regiment becomes 4-4-10 when reduced, and a British 3-3-7 armor brigade becomes 2-2-7.

When taking losses, all 2 step odd power units can round fractions in their favor.  In other words, flipping a 2 step unit always fully satisfies a 50% loss result e.g. a DF 3 unit taken a 50% loss fulfills it by taking 1 step loss.

Replacement point totals are kept for Axis armor, Axis infantry, British armor, and British infantry separately.  Whenever fulfilling a loss forces any side to remove more combat factors than his loss requirement, the excess are received “back” as additions to the appropriate replacement pool.  For example, if a German 7-7-10 is reduced to fulfill a “2” loss result, the actual reduction in strength is 3 SPs, so 1 Axis armor replacement point is added to that total.

Accumulated replacements can be used to rebuild reduced units to full strength or bring on replacement units at turn end as described more fully below, with “excess losses” mixing with scheduled replacements received.

Terrain effects

Escarpment hexes and “boxes” (field entrenched positions, more on those below) give +1 defense factor regardless of the strength of units in the hex, instead of doubling defenders.  These are never cumulative, boxes are only built in clear terrain hexes.

Tobruk and Benghazi fortress hexes give double defense strength to infantry type units within them, only, and also allow defenders to cancel “retreat” results on the CRT for the loss of an extra unit step of any kind.  If defense strengths were doubled, use the full doubled defense factor to determine loss requirements and to fulfill them for that combat (again, defenders infantry only).  Note that only the infantry NATO symbol units are infantry for this purpose, mechanized infantry or recce are not doubled.

Escarpment hexes cost 2 MPs for infantry units and 3 MPs for all other unit types.

Road movement

Instead of the “10 free MPs” of the original, Italian infantry spend 1/4 MP per road hex, all other combat units and SUs spend 1/3 of 1 MP per road hex.  These movement costs are available as long as they move along the road from one connected road hex to the next, and other terrain (escarpment) may be ignored.

New ZOCs

All infantry units that enter an enemy ZOC must stop, and infantry units pay 1/2 of their movement allowance to leave a ZOC.  Infantry units may not move directly from ZOC to ZOC.  Infantry units do not pay anything extra to enter an enemy ZOC. Only units with the actual “infantry” NATO symbol are infantry for these purposes, not “mechanized infantry” or “recce” units.

Armor, recce, and mechanized units are mechanized units for all movement and ZOC purposes.  Mechanized units pay +2 MP to enter or leave a ZOC, but do not have to stop on entering a ZOC and may move directly from ZOC to ZOC if they have sufficient movement points.

Units may retreat through an enemy ZOC as a result of combat, but the entire retreating force must lose 1 additional step of any kind to do so. Friendly units negate enemy ZOCs for purposes of retreats and tracing supply, but not for movement.

ZOCs extend out of but not into fort hexes (Benghazi and Tobruk).  ZOCs extend into and out of all other hexes including escarpment and boxes.

New stacking

The stacking limit is 3 units per hex as in the original, except that any hex containing an Italian division unit may not stack more than 2 units total. 2 Italian divisions are OK.

Field fortification “Boxes”

Infantry and mechanized infantry units, only, in clear terrain, only, may construct field fortification “boxes” in a friendly movement phase by remaining stationary for their turn, and by expending 1 SU within 5 hexes of the infantry unit positions.

Only 1 SU may be removed this way per player per game turn, but each such removal may support the construction of up to 4 such “boxes” within range of the removed SU.  Mark each such hex with a “hedgehog” counter.  Defenders in that hex receive +1 defense strength, regardless of the number or type present.

If in any friendly supply phase a hedgehog marker no longer contains any friendly unit, remove it from the map.  If an enemy unit ever enters a hedgehog marker hex by movement or advance after combat, remove it from the map.

New Sequence of Play

Reinforcement phase

Movement phase

Combat phase

Mechanized movement phase

Supply phase

Replacement phase

Reinforcement phase

In the reinforcement phase, new arriving units are placed in entry locations at the western or eastern ends of the map.  Supply units arrive only on the first turn of each month, automatically for the Allies but only on a successful convoy roll for the Axis.  Axis supply unit arrival rolls get a +1 DRM if they did not receive an SU on the previous month start game turn for the March through November 1941 period, only.  Thereafter, roll on the Axis supply table each turn without modifiers.  The Allies always get 1 SU per month without needing to roll.  Replacement point totals are increased by schedule on the first turn of each month as well, but are not used yet.

Movement phase

All units can move their full movement allowance.  One unit per turn may be moved between any two friendly controlled ports as its full movement for the turn.

Combat phase

Units adjacent to enemy units may but need not attack them. One SU must be removed to supply attacks by any number of units within 5 hexes of the removed SU; if such supplies cannot be provided then those units may not attack.  Combats occur in any order the phasing player desires and all the results of any given combat are applied before the next.  Winning attacking units may advance 1 hex into the defender’s hex up to stacking limits; winning defenders never advance.

Mechanized movement phase

In supply mechanized units, only, may move again up to 1/2 their movement allowance.  Mechanized units that wish to take replacements this turn may not move in this phase, see replacement phase below.

Supply phase

Phasing units only must check trace supply.  This must run no more than 5 hexes to either an SU or a road hex that can in turn trace back to a friendly port or entry hex. Units that cannot trace a valid supply line in this phase are marked out of supply (OOS).  OOS units have all their combat values halved, and mechanized units OOS also have their movement allowance halved and cannot move in a mechanized movement phase.

SUs can act as 5 hex “extenders” to a road to a friendly controlled port, meaning units trace 5 hexes or less to that SU, and that SU traces 5 hexes or less to a road that leads back to a friendly port.  SUs cannot “chain” to other SUs for this purpose, only 1 SU link is allowed.  When used this way, the SU is not expended, it stays on the map.

If units trace directly to an SU that cannot in turn trace back to a road as an “extender”, then the owning player may expend that SU to keep all units tracing to it in that supply phase in full supply anyway.  He must “burn” the SU to keep the units supplied if the SU itself can’t trace to a road back to a port or permanent supply source within 5 hexes.

Units that cannot trace a line of any length to either a friendly SU, friendly port or entry hex are Isolated in addition to out of supply.  Isolated units must check for elimination for Isolation Attrition.

Isolation Attrition

Each hex subject to Isolation Attrition may first decide to Break Out. This will automatically eliminate all units in that stack but will provide some replacements to the owning player in return. The election is hex by hex and must be declared before the Isolation Attrition roll is made. Break Out is always voluntary.

After declaring any Break Outs, move to resolving actual Isolation Attrition on remaining Isolated units.  To do so, roll 2D6 for each Isolated hex. On a 7 or less, the stack must fulfill a 50% loss result normally. If there are any enemy combat units adjacent to the hex rolling for isolation attrition, there is a -1 DRM to this roll.

If the hex did declare Breakout, all units are removed but the excess of the losses thereby taken over any required loss from the attrition roll, divided by 2 (round fractions upward) is the number of infantry replacement points added to that side’s infantry replacement pool. Note that even armor units generate infantry replacements in this case; their equipment is considered lost.

If the modified Isolation Attrition roll is 8 or higher, there are no attrition losses to that hex to this game turn.  If the hex declared Break Out, the units are still removed, with SPs removed divided by 2 (fractions round upward) added to that side’s infantry replacement pool.

Replacement phase

The phasing player may spend replacement points to return reduced, in supply friendly units to full strength.  Mechanized units may not have moved in their mechanized movement phase to take replacements.  Replacement points can be used to bring back whole units, instead, in a friendly entry hex.  Only armor units (NATO armor symbol) use armor replacement points, all others including mechanized and recce use infantry replacement points.  Replacement points may be accumulated indefinitely and their use is always voluntary.

Replacement rates

1941 Axis infantry replacements – 1 each April, May, July, August, October, November 1941.

1941 Axis armor replacements – 1 each June, September, December 1941.

1942 Axis infantry replacements – 1 each January, March, May, July, September, November

1942 Axis armor replacements – 1 each February, April, June, August, October, December.

(Note – November and December 1942 figures are if you want to play on, “regulation” ends at the conclusion of the October-II 1942 turn).

Axis 1941 year total 6/3

Axis 1942 year total 6/6

Allied infantry replacements – 1 per month April 1941 to game end.

Allied armor replacements – 1 each June, September, December 1941, January, March, May, July, September, November 1942.

Allied 1941 year total 9/3

Allied 1942 year total 12/6

If one wants to play on, in 1943, Axis replacement would go to zero and Allied replacements would continue just as in 1942, until game end.

Ports and off board boxes

The Axis has an off board box for Tripoli which is considered a port and a permanent Axis supply source.  The Allies have an off board box for Alexandria with is also a port and permanent Allied supply source.  Axis units may leave Tripoli by land to enter the map along the road next to the “To Tripoli” hex, and Allied units may similarly leave Alexandria by land to enter the road next to the “To Alexandria” hex.  In addition, when a player controls Tobruk he may move 1 unit per turn from his off board box to Tobruk or vice versa, and Tobruk acts as a supply source by sea for its controller.  Benghazi never acts as a port or as a supply source, though it is a fort for terrain effect purposes.

Reduced units on the map can take replacements where they are, as long as they are in supply and if mechanized units, did not move in their immediately preceding mechanized movement phase.  Whole units take as replacements must be placed in either their side’s off board box or its “To Tripoli”, “To Alexandria” hex, at the owner’s option.

Tobruk capture

The first time the Axis player takes control of Tobruk, he automatically receives 1 captured SU placed in Tobruk, regardless of whether there was any Allied SU there before the city fell.  He may also trace supply to Tobruk as long as he controls it, including in that turn’s supply phase, and starting the following turn may use it for port movement, one unit per turn.

Supply unit uses summary

The following distinct uses of supply units are now possible in revised AK.

(1) Fortify.  Time – end of movement phase.  Effect – place up to 4 “boxes” / hedgehogs on stationary, in supply infantry or mechanized infantry units in clear terrain within 5 hexes of the SU.  Max one per player turn.  Remove the SU.

(2) Combat.  Time – during the combat phase.  Effect – all phasing player units within 5 hexes of the SU may attack this combat phase.  Remove the SU.

(3) Bombardment.  Time – during the combat phase.  Effect – 1 chosen combat this phase within 5 hexes of the (second) SU receives a +1 DRM on its combat resolution.  Max one player turn.  Remove the SU.

(4) Trace supply extension.  Time – supply phase.  Effect – units may trace supply up to 5 hexes to this SU, and this SU traces supply up to 5 hexes to a road hex leading to a friendly port or permanent supply source.  Units that can so trace are in full supply.  Leave the SU, it is not expended.

(5) Emergency supply.  Time – supply phase.  Effect – units may trace supply up to 5 hexes to this SU, but this SU cannot trace to a friendly road within 5 hexes as the previous.  Units that trace to this SU are still in full supply, but this SU is expended in the process.  Remove the SU.

Tobruk and early game strategy tips

Defense of the Tobruk fortress is different in revised AK than the original, but still important.  The new combat system allows retreats in fort hexes to be cancelled by losing an additional step, but one needs to have that step to spend with force left afterward, and this can be tricky if you first need to fulfill an X1 or D1 loss result.

A stack of 1 2-2-6 and 2 1-1-6 infantry can lose half its strength to fulfill those results by eliminating the 2-2-6, and then lose one of the remaining 1-1-6s to cancel retreat, and be left barely holding the hex with a single 1-1-6.

A better defending group starts from a 2 step armor unit, e.g. 4-4-7 tank brigade plus 2 2-2-6 infantry brigades.  Even though the armor is not doubled, this still gives 12 defense factors, and it also prevents armor advantage by anything less than 2 attacking 7-7-10s.  It can also fulfill a 50% loss result by losing 1 of the 2-2-6s and step reducing the 4-4-7, and then lose either of the remaining units to cancel retreat result.

Only 1 unit can be shipped in by sea per game turn to replace lost defenders.  But reduced 2 step units can also take replacements inside the fortress, if enough replacement steps of the appropriate type are available.  In the above example, if the retreat cancelling loss is taken by the second 2-2-6, 2 armor replacements and an existing 2-2-6 waiting in Alexandria could have the fortress back up to 4-4-7, 2-2-6, 8 defense factors for the following turn.

The Italians can only get 6 and 4 AF in each hex because of their weaker unit strengths and lower stacking limit.  This means before 15th Panzer arrives, the strongest attack the Axis can put up against Tobruk is 22 factors, which get 3-2 but not 2-1 vs 12 defense strength.  If the Allies have 4 armor factors inside, the Axis cannot get armor advantage before 15th Panzer arrives, either.

The Axis may want to use 2 SUs for a bombardment DRM vs Tobruk, but they get an SU only 2/3 month start turns in the early game, some will still be moving up to the front, and any combat before Tobruk must be paid for out of a very restricted SU budget.  The Allies should try to force the Axis to fight outside the city over multiple turns to force them to  use up supplies before putting Tobruk under close siege, to make it harder for the Axis to be able to afford a bombardment allocation of their scarce SUs.